Former Royals announcer Robert “Bud” Blattner is one of eight finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to recognize longstanding excellence in broadcasting. The other candidates are Joe Buck, Bob Costas, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale, Al Michaels, Joe Morgan, and Pee Wee Reese. Denny Matthews won the award in 2007. Blattner was paired with Matthews for the original broadcasting team in Royals history back in 1969.
Blattner grew up in St. Louis and played for his hometown Cardinals for a season before serving his country in World War II in the Navy. The second baseman returned for a few years with the Giants and Phillies before turning to broadcasting, working with the St. Louis Browns. He was teamed with Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, known for his folksy sayings and mangling of the English language (he would frequently say runners “slud” into the base.) Blattner was the straight man to Dean’s mania, commenting, “People liked (Dean) giving everything but the score, but wanted me to restore sanity.”
Blattner and Dean were picked up nationally and eventually did TV broadcasts for ABC. They were the first team ever to do a weekly national broadcast. Blattner was known for “a sunshiny voice and his Rotarian of the Year personality.” Eventually, Blattner and Dean split up acrimoniously and Blattner returned to St. Louis to do Cardinals games.
After two seasons in St. Louis, Blattner moved on to the expansion Los Angeles Angels, where he served as their broadcaster from 1962 to 1968. In 1969, he again joined an expansion team, becoming the first broadcaster in Royals history, along with a young, fresh-faced Denny Matthews.
Despite being 23 years his senior, Blattner meshed well with the 26-year old rookie broadcaster from Peoria. Blattner became enormously popular, broadcasting games on 980 KMBZ, with games occasionally simulcast on KMBC Channel 9 in Kansas City. Blattner worked for the Royals until 1975, when he decided to retire and hand things over to Fred White, who paired with Matthews for the next two decades.
Blattner was also a very accomplished table tennis player, winning a national championship, and being inducted in to the U.S. Table Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1979. He passed away from lung cancer in 2009.
The winner of the Ford C. Frick Award will be announced December 13, with a ceremony for the honoree at next year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony next July.